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Holistic Management International Reacts to Grassland Plants Research Results from University of Minnesota

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2007-02-28 04:01:49     
Peter Holter, HMI

University of Minnesota scientists recently reported research results indicating that biofuels derived from grassland plants yield up to twice as much energy, per unit of land, as corn-based ethanol does. Are grasslands the key to the future of alternative energy production?

According to Holistic Management International COO Peter Holter, if we want to produce significant amounts of biofuels from grassland that will really make a difference for the environment and global warming, then we will have to find a way to produce healthy grasslands on a vast scale. "Only about one percent of the original grasslands ecosystem remains because it has been converted to agriculture, or is degraded and abandoned."

Holter points out that in the 19th century, grassland covered almost 40% of North America and sustained millions of grazing bison, pronghorns and elk - and the predators that fed on them. "The original grasslands were healthy because of the symbiotic and holistic relationship between the land and the animals. The presence of predators kept the grazing animals on the move; and their hoof action worked the soil so that their manure was quickly absorbed. These actions increased the soil's organic matter, thereby fertilizing it and making it healthier."

If we want to restore the grasslands to health, "we simply can't plant grass seeds and harvest them," Holter asserts. "The process required to grow these grasses would eventually result in the same consumptive, mechanical and chemical-laden approach now used to produce corn for ethanol."

Instead, he says, we have to be willing to:

1. Free up the vast acreage we will need.
2. Grow the grass with the animals present.
3. Manage animal grazing in a way that "replicates the behavior of those wild grazers of yesteryear."
4. Leave sufficient forage for the animals after harvesting the grasses for energy production.
5. Permit enough time for the roots of the plants in the harvested and grazed areas to rest and recover.

"If we could restore the grasslands," says Holter, "we could produce new biofuels, sequester huge amounts of carbon, increase water resources, improve wildlife habitats, reduce livestock-produced methane, and improve our rural economies".

Specialized in: Holistic Management International - Grassland Plants - Minnesota
URL: http://holisticmanagement.org
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